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Recommendations from us to you

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The Backbench editorial team decided to take a (slight) break from political analysis and has come together to bring you some of our top recommendations for lockdown entertainment. Times are strange and unpredictable, but we believe you can always take comfort in a good book, film or podcast…read on for some great suggestions, and get in touch to let us know yours!

Books

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë. ‘Reader, I self-isolated with him.’ A classic novel and one of our favourite comfort reads. This tale is guaranteed to immerse you in the world of its heroine and leave you feeling caught up in its evocative descriptions of love.

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes. A masterpiece in unreliable narration, this novel is a series of memories from protagonist Tony Webster – and at the end we are left wondering exactly what and who to believe. 

Educated – Tara Westover. This is a truly incredible memoir. It details one woman’s experience of her fundamentalist Mormon upbringing with a father who believes public schooling and healthcare are the work of the Illuminati. She nevertheless goes on to gain an education at Cambridge and Harvard. This is the story of how she does all this against the odds. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman. This book’s back cover doesn’t do it justice, which is why some may be put off reading it. But it’s sweet, insightful and a real tear-jerker.

The Plague – Albert Camus. Set in the 1940s in a town afflicted by a plague, this novel is also seen as an allegory for the Nazi occupation of France. Its uplifting theme is the good that the hardest times can bring out in people – perhaps rather relevant to now. 

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo. The 2019 winner of the Booker Prize now features on the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and is definitely worth all its accolades. Charting the lives of black British women across different time periods, this novel is fascinating in its candour and touching in its conclusion. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?

The Embassy of Cambodia – Zadie Smith. If you’re looking for something a bit more bitesize, this short story from Zadie Smith is a wonderful piece of fiction. Following Fatou from the Ivory Coast who works as a maid-cum-nanny in a wealthy London household (where her employer keeps hold of her passport), this story certainly packs a punch despite its diminutive size. 

High-Rise – J G Ballard. Relevant to our current lockdown times, written in the 1970s, J G Ballard’s novel is a prescient exploration of what happens to people when they are exposed to unusual levels of confinement. According to Ballard, our lives are like a stage set which can be dismantled in an instant…a bit of dystopian fiction in case you’re feeling that way inclined. 

Television

Tiger King (Netflix). It seems absurd to even recommend this given its ubiquity across social media, but Tiger King is absolutely worth a watch for some insane, bizarre and oddly gripping (in a car-crash sort of way) escapism.

Quiz (ITV). A three-part drama based on the true story of Charles Ingram, a Who Wants to be a Millionaire? contestant who seemingly cheated his way to success, only to be engulfed by scandal. Did he or didn’t he cheat? The drama leaves that question open with a fantastically ambiguous ending.

This Country (BBC). All three series of this heartwarming comedy are now available to watch. Set in a ‘typical Cotswold village’, the series follows cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe as they navigate the challenges of rural life. With side-splitting hilarity at points, and touching poignance at others, this is definitely a must-watch programme. 

Noughts & Crosses (BBC). Malorie Blackman’s novel has finally been dramatised! It’s what a lot of us will have spent our childhoods and teenage years hoping for, and this series does not disappoint. 

On My Block (Netflix). Funny, addictive and as times very poignant, On My Block follows a group of teenagers navigating friendship and family in inner-city LA.

Podcasts

Modern Love. Even for the most hardened heart, Modern Love’s accounts of, well, modern love, are heart-warming and genuine.

The High Low. One of the most popular podcasts out there has made its comeback after a few months off, just in time for lockdown. The perfect balance of serious and funny.

Slow Burn. Each of the three series of Slow Burn breaks down one of the major socio-political scandals of the twentieth century, as it happened: Watergate, Clinton’s impeachment scandal, and the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

The Documentary Podcast. And for those of you who just can’t get politics and social issues off the brain, this podcast from the BBC World Service is the perfect means to learn about and engage with a wide variety of topical subjects. 

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